The Girl and the Small Umbrella

Kandy, the old capital during the days of the last Sri Lankan Kings, is a small city in the High Country (it is inland and at a higher altitude- as a result it is also much cooler, temperature-wise). It has old, narrow streets and buildings dating from colonial and pre-colonial times. The roads are thick with chaotic traffic. The slightly worn buildings are faced with busy, narrow shopfronts that sell all manner of goods- jewellery, watches, clothing, electronics, toys, food. It almost seems to be from another decade- the busy streets, the men in short-sleeved shirts and black trousers, the women in long flowing skirts and short fitted blouses.

Today it rained, fat raindrops pounding the city and turning me (dressed, once more, in my overcoat as it is rather cold these days) sodden. Pedestrians streamed past one another on the pavements, determined, carrying an assortment of umbrellas, and occasionally straying out onto the road in order to cross. I made my way hurriedly, bent over in the rain, to the umbrella shop. It was congested with customers, unsurprisingly. I pushed my way to the counter and perused the merchandise. There were no small, conservative, black umbrellas of the sort I was seeking; no. The plain ones were large men’s umbrellas, and the small ones were ornamental and feminine.

One of the small umbrellas caught my eye- it was silky black with a red centre and patterned with small flowers. Opened up, it was bright, bold. Though perhaps a little garish, it seemed almost like it should be mine. I thought I would peruse the other umbrellas further. I came back empty handed. By this point another woman had “my” umbrella in hand and was deciding between it and a more drab greenish and somewhat old-fashioned one. To her, I feel, disadvantage, she ended up choosing the other umbrella, and handed me “my” umbrella with a smile. I bought it, and walked out, with this odd umbrella, quite happy.

I’m not sure what drew me to this umbrella. Its colouring perhaps? I have always been a fan of black and red. Or perhaps the ring of flowers that somehow reminded me of cherry blossoms, or maybe it was the small ornamental handle, in a delicate shade of blue-green. Whatever it is, it was an umbrella that stood out, even among the many designs and patterns of Kandy City. It was, oddly enough, very me. Even though it was this delicate, flowery piece. It was me.

What else? Some guy who seemed either sleazy or dodgy directed me to a cobbler and did not leave while my shoe was being mended. Wanker. I caught yet another packed bus from the chaotic bus-stop near the clocktower to the University. The crowding makes the bus smell intensely of stale sweat. Even on a cool, rainy day such as this one.

At the university, I discovered a building that was almost exactly the building from one of my dreams. It even overlooked rooves in the same way. The only thing it lacked were the abandoned dormitory rooms and cracked, mouldy bathrooms. The ELTU building (English Language Tuition Unit I think?) of the Medical Faculty. It was this very intense feeling of recognition- though I have never been to that part of the University. A similar thing happened to me when I went to the Flinders Street/Wellington Parade end of the Fitzroy Gardens. Odd.

Need to go and pick up my white coat from the tailor.

Till next time!

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